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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ft. Wayne, Indiana Masons Hope To Restore Rare Organ

The brethren of the Ft Wayne, Indiana Temple posess a rare organ for which they hope to raise $250,000 to restore. Read about it here.

The presence of a musical instrument wasn’t unusual. The building is strewn with pianos. The organ, though, isn’t just any organ. It’s a pipe organ, called an Estey 2525. It has 1,100 pipes.

It was installed in 1926 at a cost of $8,000. It was donated by the widow of John Bass, a local industrialist who Snyder said was worth about $4 billion in today’s dollars when he died in 1920.

Bass’s widow donated an identical organ to First Presbyterian Church, but that organ was replaced long ago.

The organ at the Masonic building, though, remains. In some ways it is the victim of neglect. Some parts designed to last 50 years are now 86 years old.

In other ways, though, the neglect has saved the organ. Until Snyder discovered it and started talking about it, few Masons who use the temple even realized it was there. Those who used the massive room where the organ is located had seen it, but they’d never heard it.

No one had played it or tinkered with it in more than 30 years, perhaps since Gerald Ford was president. That inactivity helped preserve it.

Just exactly how significant is this organ? I asked Snyder. People talk about the organ at Embassy Theatre; are they comparable? Well, Snyder said, if the Embassy’s organ is a juke box, the temple’s organ is a grand piano.

Since Snyder discovered the organ, it’s become his pet project. He located an organ expert in Marion who understands the instrument. He rounded up a crew of volunteer Masons, lured the crew that maintains the Embassy’s organ to help out on their own time and scrounged up a few thousand dollars for replacement parts. One goal, Snyder said, is to let the public know the organ is there and give them a chance to hear it.

“If it languishes and you don’t use it, it goes away,” Snyder said.

At the Three Rivers Festival this year, there was an organ tour called Follow the Pipes, where people could listen to some of the biggest organs in town. The concerts at the Masonic Temple attracted only about 20 people each.

This month, the American Guild of Organists will meet in Fort Wayne where they will get an opportunity to see and play the organ, which should generate some publicity.

For the long term, though, Snyder would like to fully restore the organ. That won’t be cheap. The organ in tip-top shape is probably worth $400,000. In its present condition, it is probably worth $200,000 and needs about $250,000 worth of work, Snyder said.

For now, Snyder isn’t trying to launch a fund drive, though he said he won’t turn down donations. Instead, he’s found a lodge in New York that was once home to members of the Rockefeller family and other moneyed Masons. It has a fund that can be used only for lodges for charitable purposes, so he’s seeking financial help from them.

Meanwhile, he wants to set up some concerts so the public can hear the instrument. He hopes to have a performance sometime after the start of the year.

For more about the rare Estay 2525 pipe organ, see here.


  1. Suggest to the Brothers, and organ enthusiasts, in Ft. Wayne that they contact John Nordlie in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Nordlie is a Freemason, Shriner, master organ builder, and all around good guy. Information on Nordlie organs is available at jfnordlie.com

    J.D. Taylor


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